What can possibly be said about the early films of Adam Sandler? They are either an acquired taste or something that you really have to be in the mood to enjoy, that mood being the willingness to turn off the higher functions of your brain. Now that is not such a bad thing, especially now when the news is filled with war, plunging stocks and a plethora of mindless celebrity gossip. These first flicks with Sandler in the lead roles have a certain childlike appeal; they can take you back to when shooting milk out of your nose was really funny. Happy Gilmore was the second of the ‘staring Adam Sandler’ films to hit the movie going public. Here, the focus was the all important social issue of class distinction in the cut throat world of professional golf. The bad thing for this film is such issues were already taken on with hilarious results in Caddy Shack. To his credit Sandler did put his unique spin on the topic.
Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) is a young man that lives for the sport of hockey; he is completely obsessed with it. The problem lies in the fact that although he has one killer slap shot he can’t skate well at all. His shot is so powerful that one results in a tragic accident with his father. His grandmother (Francis Bay) is left over $275,000 in debt with the IRS and there seems no way out of this dire fiscal predicament. That is until a friend of Happy’s takes him to the local golf course where it is discovered that Happy can hit a golf ball an amazing distance, in a straight line no less. Happy is taken under the wing of a former golf pro Chubbs (Carl Weathers) who lost his right hand to a one eyed alligator that took his hand in a water trap. No, this is really the story line here. Naturally, Happy finds the range of human emotion in his first tournament, love in the persona of Virginia Vent (Julie Bowen), the public relations person, and hatred in the guise of defending champion Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald).
There are a few things that have become trademarks for Sandler, especially notable in these mid-nineties films, his anger. Sandler portrays Happy as an explosion waiting for a chance to go off. There is no internal censor between his brain and his mouth, usually resulting in humorous results. While the comments are often vulgar in nature the comedy comes in the fact that there is not one of us that haven’t had those thoughts in frustrating situations but we wouldn’t dare to express them. This is the type of film that most of us would not admit to viewing but in our collections, there it is. The reason is there is a wish fulfillment going on here. Secretly there is a part of us that yearns for the openly hostile expressiveness of little Happy. Also, there are genuine laughs in this film.
Adam Sandler has innate talent as shown but some of his more recent films. In these first post-Saturday Night Live movies he wound up co-authoring as well as staring in the film. Based on his later vehicles to would appear that there was too much of an expectation for him to reprise his SNL recurring characters. This limited what Sandler is capable of doing. Yet, there are hints of Sandler’s abilities. There are actually touching emotional moments between Sandler and Bowen, a few made me think of his performance in Punch Drunk Love. Carl Weathers shows that he can move without effort for action hero to comedian, his ability to entertain seems to transcend the genres. Christopher McDonald provides a perfect foil for the antics of Sandler. He is immediately someone that we want to hate; we want to see the abuse heaped on him. There is no guess work in the casting of this film. You know immediately who the hero, love interest, villain and aging mentor are. There is an instant familiarity to this film because of this, something needed for an afternoon of mindless laughs.
The director of this opus was Dennis Dugan. He earned his way directing episodic television, mostly high end dramas such as Columbo, L.A. Law, Chicago Hope and NYPD Blue. He also was in control of another ‘just enjoy it’ flick, Saving Silverman. Coming from a primarily television background was reflected in the pacing of the film. The scenes are rapid fire, machine gun comedy. Many have derided Dugan for his overwhelming product placement in this film; it seems that every prop has a corporate logo affixed to it. Actually, I would like to think that this is a bit of commentary on the commercialization so prevalent in sports today. Just watch a golf tournament on television, there are not so subtle advertisements every where. Dugan worked well with his cast giving the opportunity to just let loose. Dugan must have been aware that this film was not intended for ‘Academy Consideration’, and gave the audience what we sometimes need and one of the prime purposes of film, to escape from reality for a little while.
This two pack re-release is completely redone. The new video is anamorphic 1.85:1 and is generally clear and free from most defects and brighter than the previous. None of the former little speaks are present now. The color balance is fine, flesh tones were well presented and there was a nice contrast between light and dark. The Dolby 5.1 audio is not up there with the most recent special effects films but it does the job. The newly added DTS track does a better job of creating a realistic tonal balance. The dialogue is clear and understandable, except of course when Sandler falls into his trademark mumbling. The rear speakers are typically utilized for ambiance and some effects. The sub woofer is quiescent for most of the film. Also added for this two pack are about 20 minutes of deleted scenes as well as a out takes featurette.
Universal has packaged Happy Gilmore along with the first Sandler staring role flick, Billy Madison. On a long weekend invite some friends over, get some beer and pizza and lock yourselves in the home theater room for a few hours of laughs.